Twenty-one years after he had one hand on the claret jug, John Cook took a bittersweet trip down memory lane Wednesday on 'Morning Drive' to recount his final nine holes at the 1992 Open Championship played at Muirfield.
The leading money winner for the 1992 season on the PGA Tour heading into the week, Cook began the final round tied for second, four shots behind 54-hole leader Nick Faldo. After a double bogey on the ninth hole, he appeared out of the running, but surged back up the leaderboard with birdies at holes 12, 14 and 15, taking a one-shot lead as Faldo began to falter down the stretch. In search of his first career major title, Cook increased his lead to two shots with two holes to play after another birdie on No. 16.
'I knew I just needed to finish strong and trust what I was doing,' said Cook of his mindset heading to the 71st tee.
While Faldo, playing in the final group, birdied the 15th hole to draw within one of the lead, Cook had a mid-range putt for eagle at the par-5 17th and appeared poised to return his advantage to two shots with a two-putt. His short birdie attempt failed to find the hole, though, and the three-putt left the door open for Faldo.
'I didn't even think about it,' Cook said of his second putt on the 17th green from less than 3 feet. 'I had putted so well, my speed was great all week, I just went up and thought I was going to knock it right in the middle ... I kind of went into shock.'
After finding the fairway on the home hole, Cook played a lengthy approach that failed to find the putting surface, a shot that upon reflection he would have played much differently.
'In hindsight, that was a mistake,' he said of the 2-iron that landed in the gallery right of the 18th green. 'That was my mental mistake. It had nothing to do with anything else.'
A closing bogey resulted in a runner-up finish, as Faldo went on to play his final three holes in 1 under to finish one shot clear of Cook for his third Open title. It was one of two second-place showings Cook would have at a major in 1992, as the following month he would finish behind Nick Price – and ironically alongside Faldo – at the PGA Championship at Bellerive.